n. & v.
n. 1 a continuous mark or band made on a surface (drew a line). 2 use of lines in art, esp. draughtsmanship or engraving (boldness of line). 3 a thing resembling such a mark esp. a furrow or wrinkle. 4 Mus. a each of (usu. five) horizontal marks forming a stave in musical notation. b a sequence of notes or tones forming an instrumental or vocal melody. 5 a a straight or curved continuous extent of length without breadth. b the track of a moving point. 6 a a contour or outline, esp. as a feature of design (admired the sculpture's clean lines; this year's line is full at the back; the ship's lines). b a facial feature (the cruel line of his mouth). 7 a (on a map or graph) a curve connecting all points having a specified common property. b (the Line) the Equator. 8 a a limit or boundary. b a mark limiting the area of play, the starting or finishing point in a race, etc. c the boundary between a credit and a debit in an account. 9 a a row of persons or things. b a direction as indicated by them (line of march). c US a queue. 10 a a row of printed or written words. b a portion of verse written in one line. 11 (in pl.) a a piece of poetry. b the words of an actor's part. c a specified amount of text etc. to be written out as a school punishment. 12 a short letter or note (drop me a line). 13 (in pl.) = marriage lines. 14 a length of cord, rope, wire, etc., usu. serving a specified purpose, esp. a fishing-line or clothes-line. 15 a a wire or cable for a telephone or telegraph. b a connection by means of this (am trying to get a line). 16 a a single track of a railway. b one branch or route of a railway system, or the whole system under one management. 17 a a regular succession of buses, ships, aircraft, etc., plying between certain places. b a company conducting this (shipping line). 18 a connected series of persons following one another in time (esp. several generations of a family); stock, succession (a long line of craftsmen; next in line to the throne). 19 a a course or manner of procedure, conduct, thought, etc. (did it along these lines; don't take that line with me). b policy (the party line). c conformity (bring them into line). 20 a direction, course, or channel (lines of communication). 21 a department of activity; a province; a branch of business (not in my line). 22 a class of commercial goods (a new line in hats). 23 colloq. a false or exaggerated account or story; a dishonest approach (gave me a line about missing the bus). 24 a a connected series of military fieldworks, defences, etc. (behind enemy lines). b an arrangement of soldiers or ships side by side; a line of battle (ship of the line). c (prec. by the) regular army regiments (not auxiliary forces or Guards). 25 each of the very narrow horizontal sections forming a television picture. 26 a narrow range of the spectrum that is noticeably brighter or darker than the adjacent parts. 27 the level of the base of most letters in printing and writing. 28 (as a measure) one twelfth of an inch.
v. 1 tr. mark with lines. 2 tr. cover with lines (a face lined with pain). 3 tr. & intr. position or stand at intervals along (crowds lined the route). all along the line at every point. bring into line make conform. come into line conform. end of the line the point at which further effort is unproductive or one can go no further. get a line on colloq. learn something about. in line for likely to receive. in the line of in the course of (esp. duty). in (or out of) line with in (or not in) accordance with. lay (or put) it on the line speak frankly. line-drawing a drawing in which images are produced from variations of lines. line of fire the expected path of gunfire, a missile, etc. line of force Physics an imaginary line which represents the strength and direction of a magnetic, gravitational, or electric field at any point. line of march the route taken in marching. line of vision the straight line along which an observer looks. line-out (in Rugby Football) parallel lines of opposing forwards at right angles to the touchline for the throwing in of the ball. line printer a machine that prints output from a computer a line at a time rather than character by character. line up 1 arrange or be arranged in a line or lines. 2 have ready; organize (had a job lined up). line-up n. 1 a line of people for inspection. 2 an arrangement of persons in a team or nations etc. in an alliance. on the line 1 at risk (put my reputation on the line). 2 speaking on the telephone. 3 (of a picture in an exhibition) hung with its centre about level with the spectator's eye. out of line not in alignment; discordant.
[ ME line, ligne f. OF ligne ult. f. L linea f. linum flax, & f. OE line rope, series ]